The U.S. Agency for International Development’s $416 million, five-year program to boost women’s leadership runs the risk of being irrelevant in a country where, just last month, a woman was beaten to death by a mob of men in broad daylight for allegedly burning a Quran. In a video taken by an onlooker, a man is seen taking a concrete block to smash her head. Her body was then set on fire and thrown into a river.
The issue is not just the legitimate concerns over the difficulties of implementing, monitoring and assessing the impact of the program amidst a NATO pullout, as the inspector general of the government watchdog on Afghanistan reconstruction pointed out.
President Obama came before the United Nations hat in hand this week and got it to commit to anti-terror action, as the Security Council unanimously approved his foreign fighters resolution. He should also use the UN to promote the “antidotes” to violence he spelled out – entrepreneurship, civil society, education and youth – as part of “an architecture of counterterrorism.”
In fact, the UN has been underused in counterterrorism. Almost ten years after former secretary-general Kofi Annan declared that the UN must up the ante in counterterrorism to stay relevant, the famously unwieldy body has yet to heed his call to tackle transnational security threats.
With the unforgiving sun beating down on creaking donkey carts in bone-dry heat, it is evident to first-time visitors that Nouakchott, the capital of Mauritania, is one of the poorest places on earth.
It’s also one of the four countries in North and West Africa, along with Libya, Niger and Mali, where the Pentagon is pumping millions into to build elite counter-terrorism units. About $29 million has been set aside for logistics and surveillance equipment for Mauritania. Secretary Kerry called the air capacity and counter-terrorism training given to the Mauritanian armed forces “a regional solution to a regional problem.” It recalls his 2004 campaign quip about the Bush administration’s outsourcing of finding bin Laden to the Pashtuns, only this time we are outsourcing the fight to African armies barely capable of countering Islamic terrorism.